Manchester United fans are no different to any others. They love the brilliance which some of their players can provide, consistent match winners are put on a pedestal but the ones who remain long in their memories are those who give their all to the club for the majority of their careers, even though they may have done better for themselves if they took one of the many opportunities to go elsewhere. It’s called total and unconditional loyalty to their club and who can possibly embody that quality better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?
Make no mistake, the man who became known as ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ did not simply happen to stick out a foot and win the European Champions League for United on that historic night in Barcelona. Solskjaer used his predator, goal scoring instincts – as he had done so many times, to put himself into the perfect place and enable him to score that unforgettable, last gasp winner which will forever remain in United folklore.
Even after announcing his retirement in 2007 following his failure to recover from a serious knee injury, Solskjaer remained at Old Trafford in the coaching role of reserve team manager but as the unmistakeable old saying goes “all good things must come to an end.” Solskjaer has called time on his 14 year association with Manchester United after a glittering career at Old Trafford to take over as boss of Norwegian club Molde.
Not that it was an easy decision but he has no doubt that it’s the correct one for his family and himself. “I’ve enjoyed my time in England but I’ve got five or six weeks left here and I will enjoy it – but it’s time now to go back to Norway because of my family. I’m looking forward to this challenge but it’s massively hard to leave Manchester United.” he confessed.
“When I told the manager I almost had a tear in my eye. I’ve had an unbelievable time, I’ve played under him for 11 years and coached for three and a half years, learned a hell of a lot and everyone at United has treated me fantastically.”
‘I’ve been away from Norway for 14 and a half years and felt it was time to go home” he continued “the opportunity to manage Molde was too good to turn down. I’ve had conversations with Sir Alex Ferguson in the last couple of weeks and he said it was a good step – and that was the go ahead for me. He encouraged me and they were the words I needed to hear.”
With three young children, Noah, Karna and Elijah all growing up, Solskjaer leaves Old Trafford with Ferguson’s blessing “Ole has had a good period with our reserve team which has given him a foundation to start somewhere else” he said “he feels it is time he went back to Norway which also helps his family situation. He has been a fantastic servant to us and I am sure he will do well. He has worked with some really good young players in our reserve team and has contributed to their development.”
“Once he gets experience of managing a club in its own right who knows where it will take him?” Ferguson asked “Molde are a very progressive club in Norwegian football so this is a good start for him. We have a good contact base in Norway now” he continued “it is difficult to say what Ole will do long term but he has made a conscious decision regarding his family which worked out well with the fact that Molde were looking for a coach.”
Asked on Sky Sports if he saw himself returning to Old Trafford as manager in the future Solskjaer candidly admitted that “Anyone who’s played for United would love to manage the club but as the manager told me, you need experience and this is the first step for me. Maybe in 25 years, maybe that’s the time.”
So a legend moves on from Old Trafford with the very best wishes and appreciation for the many memories he leaves behind. Will he ever return? Who knows, the only certainty is that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been, and will forever remain, an integral member of the extended Manchester United family.
Do you have a favourite memory of Solskjaer – apart from the obvious one?